Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

One of my favourite short books is Richard Bach’s philosophical work of fiction titled Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. First published in 1977, this book features Richard as himself, a disillusioned writer and pilot, who happens to meet ex-mechanic and reluctant messiah Donald Shimoda. 

This lively allegory touches on Jesus and the workings of religion, with Donald being an Indian ex-mechanic rather than a Middle Eastern carpenter. Unlike Jesus, Donald can’t see the point of being the Messiah anymore, and wants someone else to do the job. 

Behind the headrest of Donald’s Travel Air 4000 is The Messiah’s Handbook, a collection of maxims and short paragraphs that will provide his replacement with everything he needs to know. Richard leafs through the handbook occasionally, considering if he’s up for the task. 

While Illusions is not obliged to share any real wisdom, it does so anyway, and I find myself thinking of a few of the short maxims contained in the book daily. The fact that you can find real wisdom anywhere (if you’re open to it) is something Richard and Donald themselves discuss. 

As the duo tinker with airplane engines and ponder the meaning of life over tins of Spaghetti-Os, Donald explains to Richard why he’s so eager to quit: “It’s not me they want, it’s the miracles! And those I can teach to someday else; let him be the Messiah. I won’t tell him it’s a dull job. And besides, ‘There is no problem so big that it cannot be run away from.’ ” 

“You are quoting Snoopy the Dog, I believe?” 

“I’ll quote the truth wherever I find it, thank you.”

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